Pollution from coal power plants in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region causes nearly 10,000 premature deaths

Press release - 2013-06-18
A research project co-authored by Greenpeace on the health impacts of coal power plants shows that PM2.5 pollution from the 196 coal-fired power plants in the capital region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei caused 9,900 premature deaths and nearly 70,000 outpatient visits or hospitalizations during 2011. 75% of the premature deaths are caused by the 152 coal-fired power plants in Hebei Province.

Huang Wei, Climate and Energy campaigner in Greenpeace said, ‘Clean air is the basic necessity for healthy living. But PM2.5 pollution from coal power plants is seriously damaging public health in the capital region.’

The research report, co-authored by Greenpeace and air pollution expert Dr. Andrew Grayⅰ in the US, is the first academic research of its kind, analyzing the capital region. Employing advanced research methodology, they assessed the public health impacts, including premature deaths and most prevalent chronic diseases caused by PM2.5 pollution from coal power plants. The team combined air pollutant emission dataⅱ of all 196 coal-fired power plants within the capital area with regional meteorological, geographic and demographic data. The CALPUFF advanced pollution dispersion model was used to analyze the contributionfrom the power plants within the region to PM2.5 pollution. A health risk modelⅳ developed by WHO Global Burden of Disease study was then combined to the CALPUFF model for quantitative assessment and analysis of the premature deaths caused in the region.

Results of the research estimates that air pollution from coal power plants within the capital region caused up to 9,900 premature deaths in the region in 2011, with nearly 2,000 deaths in Beijing, 1,200 in Tianjin and 6,700 in Hebei. Research also indicates that coal power plants within the region caused 850 deaths from lung cancer, 190 cases of infant deaths, and increase amount of children suffering from asthma by 9,300 and number of people with chronic bronchitis by 12,000.

The most significant impact on public health within the capital region were caused by pollution from Hebei province. Emissions from coal power plants in Hebei were linked to almost 60% of the premature deaths in Beijing and Tianjin, while also accounting for nearly 80% of the 6,700 cases of premature deaths estimated locally in Hebei.

‘Pollution from coal burning is a silent killer. On the one hand, Hebei is responsible for 60% of premature deaths in Beijing and Tianjin. On the other, Hebei itself bears the biggest public health loss from coal power plants. And the pollution from coal power plants in Hebei is only one source of the total PM2.5 pollution caused by all coal burning within the province,’ Huang Wei said.

The coal consumption of Hebei reached 307 million tons in 2011, which is 80% of total coal consumption in the capital region. About one third is consumed by coal power production. In addition to the power generation, other heavy industries like steel and cement also consumed large amount coal and released large amounts of air pollutants – including these other industries in the research would have further increased the estimated impacts. According to official statistics, air pollution emissions from Hebei account from 77% to 90% of the three main air pollutants in the capital region.

A recent speech by Premier Li Keqiang highlighted the energy structure adjustment aiming to tackle the heavy air pollution by targeting heavy industry. Greenpeace Climate and Energy campaigner, Huang Wei stated, ‘PM2.5 pollution caused by coal burning and power consumption from high pollution and energy-intensive industries in the capital region is the key contributor of pollution in the region. To protect public health from smog, the control of coal consumption  at the regional level is of the great urgency and action in Hebei is the top priority.’

Greenpeace calls for a more ambitious plan by the central and local governments to protect public health and control pollution: set the timetable to meet air quality standards within 10 years in Beijing-Tianjing-Hebei region and set clear targets for coal reduction for the region and other parts of the country. ‘The capital region is suffering under a heavy health burden. The local governments of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei  should take immediate action to reduce coal consumption by limiting energy-intensive and heavily polluting industries, adjusting the energy structure, and rapidly developing renewable energy. The aim should be a reduction of 80 million tons in coal consumption over the next five years. The public should enjoy clean air as soon as possible. ’ said by Huang Wei, Greenpeace Climate and Energy campaigner.

ⅰ: Dr. Andrew Gray is a contributor to the development of CALPUFF, which is widely used internationally to model health impacts of air pollution. He has over 30 years of experience in the research and modeling of the dispersion of air pollutantsand the wider health impacts. He has worked for the US EPA, as well as the state government of California. More information about Dr. Gray, please visit: http://newenergyeconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Gray-Analysis-NEE_OppStayExhs_1.13.2012-2.pdf#page=5

ⅱ: CALPUFF model uses the data from over 2,000 operating coal power plant in China, including locations, chimney height, total emissions and end-of-pipe control, as well as other data on pollution sources to assess the pollutant’s dispersion and emissions’ impacts on PM2.5 levels. For more detail please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CALPUFF http://www.lem.org.cn/support/files/CALPUFFyhsc.pdf

ⅲ: Basic data sources include MEP information on coal-fired power plants pollution control, industry report of China Electricity Council and China’s census statistics, etc.

ⅳ: See Global Burden of Disease results on air pollution published in The Lancet http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)61766-8/abstract

v: 1.2 Million Premature Deaths Caused by Air Pollution in China in 2010http://www.infzm.com/content/89404

ⅵ: China Environmental Statics Yearbook 2012

Download the report summary here.

Media Contact:

Yu Chong, Media Officer of Greenpeace +86-10-65546931-110 +86-13810784274 

Dr. Andrew Gray